Musculoskeletal Injury History Is Associated With Lower Physical and Mental Health in a Historical Cohort of Former National Football League Players

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Little research has examined health-related quality of life in former National Football League (NFL) players. Objective: Examine the association of musculoskeletal injury history and current self-reported physical and mental health in former NFL players. Setting: Cross-sectional questionnaire. Patients or Other Participants: Historical cohort of 2,103 former NFL players that played at least one season between 1940 and 2001. Intervention: Players were grouped by self-reported professional career musculoskeletal injury history and whether injuries affected current health: (1) no musculoskeletal injury history; (2) musculoskeletal injury history, currently affected by injuries; and (3) musculoskeletal injury history, not currently affected by injuries. Main Outcome Measure: The Short Form 36 Measurement Model for Functional Assessment of Health and Well-Being (SF-36) yielded physical and mental health composite scores (PCS and MCS, respectively); higher scores indicated better health. Multivariable linear regression computed mean differences (MD) among injury groups. Covariates included demographics, playing history characteristics, surgical intervention for musculoskeletal injuries, and whether injury resulted in premature end to career. MD with 95% CI excluding 0.00 were deemed significant. Results: Overall, 90.3% reported at least one musculoskeletal injury during their professional football careers, of which 74.8% reported being affected by their injuries at time of survey completion. Adjusting for covariates, mean PCS in the “injury and affected” group was lower than the “no injury” (MD = −3.2; 95% CI: −4.8, −1.7) and “injury and not affected” groups (MD = −4.3; 95% CI: −5.4, −3.3); mean MCS did not differ. Conclusion: Many players reported musculoskeletal injuries, highlighting the need for developing and evaluating injury management interventions.

Kerr, DeFreese, and Guskiewicz are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Kerr, DeFreese, Carneiro, Marshall, and Guskiewicz are with the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; and the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Kerr, Marshall, and Guskiewicz are also with the Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Prim is with the Human Movement Science Curriculum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Thomas is with the Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, NC, USA. Simon is with the Division of Athletic Training, School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA. Carneiro is also with the School of Medicine, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Marshall is also with the Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

Kerr (zkerr@email.unc.edu) is corresponding author.
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